“‘That Jew died for you,’ a video produced by Jews for Jesus was taken off their website after it gained over one million YouTube hits, and was attacked for being insensitive and tasteless, Australian Jewish News reported Monday.
“[We] are sincerely sorry for any hurt which some experienced thinking we were intentionally aggravating haunting memories,” Bob Mendelsohn of Jews for Jesus Australia told The Australian Jewish News.
“Many on our worldwide staff have too many relatives who perished in the camps to have intended that aggravation.”
While the video was taken off the Australian Jews for Jesus website it still appears on other Jews for Jesus websites such as the American one and on YouTube.
“It’s hard to fathom who thought this project would be a good idea. Any Jew with personal, familial, or even historical memories of the Holocaust will immediately find it to be an outrage. Not to state the obvious, but it desecrates the memory of six million Jews to use their suffering as a way to convert Jews to Christianity.”
On Gawker, Adam Weinstein wrote that the video tries “to convert Hebrews in apparently the most off-putting way possible.”
A blogger called Dror from an online collective of Messianic Jews, meanwhile, said the clip is “rather insensitively named” but added that “God understands the horrors of Auschwitz, because of His own death and his active and willing participation in receiving suffering,” Christian Today reported when the video was first released.
Amid the controversy, Fox News and the History Channel refused to play an ad for the video, according to the report.
The video starts off with images that are familiar to anyone who’s seen a Holocaust movie: the tightly packed railway car, the frightened Jews with Jewish stars pinned to their clothes stumbling off the train, the forced march and the shouts in German.
Jesus makes his first, relatively subtle appearance as a long-haired young woman stumbles and is helped up by someone in a white robe under the glinting sun. As the Jews stand in the selection line at the entrance to what appears to be Auschwitz, with the sign “Arbeit macht frei” clearly visible in the background, two Nazi officers discuss whether each Jew will be sent to the labor camp or the gas chamber.
At one point, the younger one says: “Let me choose,” and selects the next in line for the so-called “showers.” The English subtitle shows that he says in German “Just another Jew” as the soaring music of movie climaxes plays to a long-haired Jesus dragging a huge wooden cross behind him as a Nazi officer jabs him on the way to the gas chamber. “That Jew died for you,” the video announces in large letters.
Jews for Jesus is an organization whose mission statement is “to make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide.” They employ some 200 people, according to a report in Christian Today, and say that the idea behind the video is to “help redefine the conversation and reshape views of Jesus.”
“With recent anti-Semitic events in Kansas City and Ukraine, our YouTube video ‘That Jew Died For You’ is needed more than ever because it offers a message of hope in times of despair,” Christian Today cited their executive director David Brickner as saying.
“While our video focuses on the Holocaust, anti-Semitism needs to be challenged everywhere. Only Jesus the Jewish Messiah can replace the fear and anxiety in our hearts with a peace from God that passes all understanding, because He Himself is the Prince of Peace. That Jew, Jesus the Messiah, died for all of us, so that we may live,” he was cited as saying.”
Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian…
“Jesus wasn’t a Christian – that word exists for his followers and came later. He was Jewish. His mother was Jewish. He was circumcised as a Jew. He pretty much followed the Jewish law, departing from it only in the name of what he saw as its deeper meaning. “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished,” he insisted at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Sure, he debated furiously with the Pharisees and Sadducees, especially about the significance of the temple. And, in time, this argument came to be restyled by Jesus’ gentile followers as an attack upon Jews per se. But originally it was an internal debate within Judaism, not an attack upon Jews from the outside. In was an internal debate in the same way that the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures, such as Jeremiah, often attacked the priests of the temple for missing the point.
It is a horrible irony, then, that Christianity bears primary responsibility for historic antisemitism. Few ideas can have been as poisonous as, and inspired more murderousness than, the idea that Jews were the Christ-killers. Of course, only the Romans had the legal authority to crucify someone: it was their signature way of dealing with troublemakers. But this fact became historically inconvenient for a religion that was eventually to place its global headquarters within Rome itself.
So what, then, about this unpleasant video recently released by the evangelical organisation Jews for Jesus, and widely dubbed as one of the most offensive religious videos ever made? Already watched by more than a million people, it shows Jesus, carrying a cross, being selected by Nazi guards for the gas chambers. “Just another Jew,” the guards sneer. Given the history of Christian antisemitism, using the murder of 6 million Jews as a pretext for converting Jews to Christianity is mind-bogglingly offensive. As Jews commemorate Yom HaShoah on Sunday, the only proper Christian response to the Holocaust ought to be one of contrition and an acknowledgment of the ways in which Christian antisemitism prepared its ideological ground.
Instead, the film That Jew Died for You uses the Holocaust for Christian propaganda, ending with a quote from the book of Isaiah that evangelical Christians have long used to explain the meaning of Jesus’s death on the cross: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we were healed.”
The idea here is that Jesus’s death is a punishment by God for human wickedness. He pays the price of human sin on our behalf. This understanding of what Christians mean by salvation – known technically as penal substitutionary atonement – was actually unknown in the early church, though some Christians seem to think it is the only way of understanding the cross. They ignore the fact that it transforms God into some sort of psychopath who murders his own son as a magical way of dealing with endemic human wickedness. When set in the Holocaust, it doubles the offence by implying that the gas chambers are also a sort of payback by God for human wrongdoing.
Even in terms of Christian theology, penal substitution is a mistake, not least because it doesn’t give the resurrection any work to do in the economy of human salvation. Indeed, there are multiple other readings of the cross, which do not rely on this payback model but, out of respect, I am not going to go into that here. While Christians regard the cross as an inevitable part of human salvation, for Jews it remains a symbol of centuries of oppression. And the right and proper Christian response to this is a confession of complicity, not a trumpeting of theological superiority.”